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Pros and Cons: Custom Cabinets vs. Manufactured Box Cabinets

Which cabinets are right for you?

Some of the most important decisions you make when remodeling your kitchen, bathroom, or basement revolve around cabinetry. What type of wood, what door and drawer style, what finish, and what accessories do you want? One of the other questions that we often discuss with our clients is the difference between custom cabinets and manufactured or box cabinets. Many people have a perception that custom cabinets are better, but are they really? Here is some information to help you understand the difference.

First, let’s define each type of cabinet:

pros and cons of custom cabinets

Custom Cabinet: As the name implies, custom cabinets are made specifically to order for a project. There isn’t a catalog of standard sizes and details. These are typically made in a local shop.

This kitchen renovation features custom cabinets. There are several round cabinets, refrigerator panels, and varying heights. The stained cabinet door panels are a ratton material with a natural finish. The enameled cabinets have a hand applied seven step finish that includes a glaze and a rub through.

pros and cons of box manufactured cabinets

Box or Manufactured Cabinet: These cabinets are made in standard sizes with a variety of options. They are ordered from a catalog using specialized nomenclature to describe each cabinet. As you might expect, these are produced in a factory setting.

In this kitchen remodel we were able to use almost all standard size cabinets. This helped keep the project affordable while still creating a beautiful new kitchen.

pros and cons of semi-custom cabinetsThere is actually a third choice that many people are not aware of called Semi-Custom Cabinets. These are cabinets that are made in a factory, and the manufacturer allows for modification of the standard catalog sizes, drawing of custom features, and even creating unique stains and finishes.

As you can see from these descriptions, there isn’t just two choices, custom cabinets versus box cabinets. There is a spectrum of choices related to customization. You want to move more toward customization if:

  • You are going to match existing cabinets.
  • You are modifying some cabinets for new appliances or minor layout changes.
  • The floor plan or layout of the cabinets is complex.
  • You want a one of kind style or are replicating a classic design style.
  • You desire a rare wood species or a unique finish.

mixing cabinet types can be a good idea

Mixing Cabinet Types: There are situations where we use both types of cabinets. In this project the kitchen features semi-custom cabinetry and the family room entertainment center and mantel was created using custom cabinets.

Quality: It is important to stress that custom cabinets are not necessarily higher quality, nor are manufactured cabinets. Both types come in a wide range of quality. We have seen manufactured cabinets with really thin particle board boxes that have literally slid down the wall. Likewise, almost everyone has seen custom cabinets without backs, apparently because some builders believe that consumers only care about what they can see. How cabinets are built matters for the durability and longevity of the kitchen, bathroom, or basement.

Cabinet Finish: One feature of some box cabinets that is hard for custom cabinet shops to match is the use of a heat cured catalyzed varnish. This requires a controlled factory setting. These durable top coats over the stain or enamel can help protect the cabinets from the wear and tear of busy families.

Price: In general, customization adds to the cost of cabinets. However, it is only one variable that impacts cost. Others are the wood species for the doors, the type of finish, the quality of the cabinet box, the type of drawer glides and hinges, and other factors. We have ordered kitchen cabinets for $4,000 and for $40,000, and everything in between.

Because cabinetry is a large component of most renovation budgets it is often an area where lower priced contractors try to cut costs. At New Spaces our professional designers explore and educate our clients about cabinet options in order to ensure you receive the quality and features that you desire and that are appropriate for the project and budget.

Our Trusted Expert Consultation

Personalized Advice Just For You

We take a unique educational approach to helping our clients through the complex remodeling process. Our salaried designers share real budget information to help you make informed decisions about your renovation project. There is never any pressure, only professional advice.

To get started, either fill out this form, call us at 952-898-5300, or email us at info@newspaces.com.

Jennifer McClellan, Homeowner Advisor, has been helping families through New Spaces’ educational process for over five years. She loves being able to show people how our team can help them achieve their remodeling dream.


Meg Jaeger recently joined the New Spaces team, bringing her experience and passion for housing that has helped nearly a thousand families in the area build and remodel. She was owner of Mega Homes and is the President of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities


We look forward to working with you to create the house of your dreams!

Our Trusted Expert Consultation

Personalized Advice Just For You

We take a unique educational approach to helping our clients through the complex remodeling process. Our salaried designers share real budget information to help you make informed decisions about your renovation project. There is never any pressure, only professional advice.

To get started, either fill out this form, call us at 952-898-5300, or email us at info@newspaces.com.

Jennifer McClellan, Homeowner Advisor, has been helping families through New Spaces’ educational process for over five years. She loves being able to show people how our team can help them achieve their remodeling dream.


Meg Jaeger recently joined the New Spaces team, bringing her experience and passion for housing that has helped nearly a thousand families in the area build and remodel. She was owner of Mega Homes and is the President of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities


We look forward to working with you to create the house of your dreams!

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